Thursday, December 28, 2017

December... and the Trials Continue

Johnny's fall back in November seems to have disrupted more than his knee. Once it started feeling better, he realized how much his feet hurt, both of them. And his legs. In fact, he could barely hobble around with two canes (ski poles). So a friend brought him a loaner wheelchair from church and that has made Johnny's life much easier. A trip to the doctor (a month after the fall) and x-rays showed that his feet had internal as well as external swelling and some arthritis, cause uncertain. He is doing all sorts of exercises and treatments and has hopes of being "normal" again. In January, he will go to a foot and ankle clinic in hopes they can figure out what's going on. Meanwhile, he can drive the car and, for short periods, the van, so is doing all our usual birding events as vehicle-bound chaperone. You can't keep a good man down.

To add to the excitement, our car developed a flat tire. Well, I suppose it developed it because I ran over something that poked it but I didn't know that until two different friends mentioned that the car in Johnny's shop had a flat tire. So Johnny in his wheelchair and I in my cap (it was cold out) went out to change the tire. With his excellent instructions and my brawn, the tire was changed... but not without incident of course. The incident being that Johnny forgot to set the brake on his wheelchair before reaching over to help push the tire onto the little pokey things that the lug nuts have to fit over. Chair went zooming backwards and Johnny landed on his butt. Fortunately, he did no further damage to his legs. After the fact, he took a photo of me, and I took one of him, giving directions.

Bad things come in threes, they say, and the third was the worst. One of our two llamas came down with what, in retrospect, I thought was tetanus. So we now have only one llama, Lindoro, who is 18 going on 19. His son was 16, going on 17. I thought they were youngsters in llama years but the internet tells me the average lifespan of a llama in captivity is 15-20 years.   I have now given vaccines to all the goats and gone to a clinic to get a vaccine myself, since it had been 20 years since my last one... The vet came out the next day to give shots to the llama and the horses and said it didn't sound like tetanus to him but all the animals should have tetanus shots anyway because horses carry tetanus in their intestines.

Christmas Day offered a respite from the stress. We traveled, as usual, to Tillamook to have Christmas dinner at the Shiloh Inn with friends and fellow birders, John and Barbara Woodhouse. The meal was wonderful... and none of us had to cook or clean up a kitchen afterwards! And then we went car birding. I had taken my Nikon P900 camera along and John stopped frequently to let me indulge my mania for photos. The meadowlarks were a surprise at the end of Bay Ocean Spit road. One of them looked grumpy.

The rocks off Cape Meares are visible from this road. A Northern Harrier flew across as I snapped the photo...

An unlikely pair, cormorant and heron, shared a log in the lake alongside the road.

They were quite content together, even grooming themselves...

What a difference one day -- with good friends, good birds and good scenery -- can make.

That evening, Steve called to set up video conferencing so we could see and talk to all of them. Such magic!  And the kids sent us a fantastic Christmas video they made for us of Kestrel on guitar and singing, Cedrus on keyboard and singing. They are amazingly talented. What a wonderful gift.

And what a great note to end a not-so-great year on... Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

November Trials and Tribulations

It's been an interesting November so far. I spent the first two weeks with a bad cold. I managed to do morning and evening chores, my beached bird survey... with help from Johnny this month, and our two raptor surveys, again with Johnny. And I cut greens for wreaths and started making them.

The beached bird survey provides lots of dead bird photos that aren't too attractive so I'll leave them out. But Johnny noticed a live bird in our driveway one day, a Ruffed Grouse. I saw it the next day, too, and got a blurry photo of the well camouflaged bird.

 Our North Santiam raptor route gave us lovely views of snow-clad mountains: Mt. Hood...

and Mt. Jefferson...

 I was still sick then, so did not take many other photos.

A few days after I was done with my cold, Johnny came down with it. And then, to add interest, he slipped in the mud and landed with his left knee twisted under him. No chores and nothing much but bed for him for the next week. This week he is hobbling around without a cane and seems to feel better. 

With Johnny under the weather, it was my turn to drive to town for animal feed. I took my camera with me and stopped to take a photo of the smiley face that graces a mountainside near us. Hampton Lumber planted larch trees some years ago to make this face when the larches turn color in the fall. The eyes and mouth are doug fir. It is a cheerful sight that makes all of us in the area smile whenever we drive that highway. 

The last couple weeks have been mostly wreath-making time for me. I enjoy cutting greens off our own place to make the wreaths. This year I used prunings from the dwarf pines in the rose bed, redwood branches and modoc cypress branches from the arboretum, and holly from the tree in our front yard. I had made the grapevine rounds that I use as a base some weeks ago. But I had cut the vines from our grapes several weeks before making the rounds so the vines were a bit dried out and hard to work with. I threw them in the creek for a day or two and that helped some. Next year I'll make the rounds as soon as I cut the vines. Hopefully.

Making wreaths is sometimes fun and sometimes frustrating. But they are done now with the ones that get mailed either shipped or ready for shipping. I took a photo of some of the wreaths hanging in my workshop (otherwise known as the stock trailer). The other side of the trailer has an equal number of wreaths hanging along it. My workbench is at the front of the stock trailer, with a window looking out on the arena. I love my workshop.

With Johnny's knee healing and the wreaths finished, we are preparing for a quiet Thanksgiving with just a few friends. It promises to be a rainy holiday weekend, but whenever the clouds allow, we are graced with lovely November sunrises.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Cidering Birthday Weekend

 Our Seattle area kids arrived late Friday night for a weekend on the farm. Jessica spent Saturday morning cooking lots of fabulous food, even though she was feeling lousy.  She is a determined lady. The rest of us spent the afternoon gathering apples and making cider for them to take home.

It's been a lousy apple year but the bears had left us some at the very top of a tree by the swamp at the far southern edge of our property. Kevin climbed up while Ian operated a long pole to knock apples down... and hopefully not Kevin. Johnny took photos.

 I gathered the apples on the tarp spread below... and hoped not to get hit on the head.

Bears had left plenty of sign of their apple eating activity, both on the ground...

And in the tree: Kevin said scratch marks from a bear's attempt to reach those top apples went nearly all the way to the apples...

The only tree in our orchard still with apples this late in this very odd year is very old and thick with branches. Too thick and with apples too high for poles from the ground to work, so Kevin climbed and threw apples down at us. Well, it sometimes seemed like he was throwing them at us. Johnny attempted to get a photo of Kevin hidden in the upper branches.

 Easier were the trees around our house, although they did not have many apples, either. Here Ian did the tree climbing honors. Kevin handed him a fruit picking pole so he could reach the apples high above.


With apples finally gathered, we set up the cider pressing operation. I washed apples while Kevin cut the rotten parts out.

Johnny and Ian took turns dropping the apples into the apple shredder. Well, Ian "dropped" his from a distance.

 Below Johnny presses the apples into the grinder with an apple pusher (my name... don't have a clue what it's really called.)

  The shredded apples dropped into a bucket and then were dumped into the press.

I did not get a photo of Kevin or Ian or Johnny twisting the press handles, squeezing the juice out, but they did and here it comes...

The juice was then poured through a strainer to get out the apple parts that had escaped through the press slats.

After each pressing, the mostly-dried-out apple pieces were cleaned out of the press and dumped into a wheelbarrow.

After all the apples were pressed, the leavings went to the goats. Happy goats!

 That evening we sat down for a wonderful supper of pulled pork and potato salad (at Johnny's request) and green salad and more... with a pumpkin cheesecake (at my request) for dessert, complete with candles to celebrate my Halloween birthday. (Brownies, too. Jessica makes delicious brownies.)

That evening, before goat-milking chores, we watched two episodes of the Big Bang Theory, Season 8.  K and J and Ian had given us the previous seasons in the past. Now we won't have to keep watching Seasons 1 through 7 over and over! (Every evening that we aren't too tired, Johnny and I watch 2 episodes of this comedy. We love it. No matter how many times we watch it.)

Kevin, Jessica and Ian left for their long drive home at Sunday noon. It was cool and misty then, after an incredibly warm and dry Saturday for our fun birthday and cider celebration.

Johnny and I ate well again Sunday night... and watched two more Big Bang Theory episodes from Season 8. Jessica made enough food to last us several more happy, delicious days.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Wrists, Witches and WonderFall Colors

For three weeks, I've intended to take photos of and write about Johnny's carpal tunnel surgeries. But he did not leave his sling on or his wraps on long enough for me to get my act together and take photos the first time (right hand) or the second time (left hand). He is not a patient patient. But the surgeries seem to have worked fine and he no longer has off and on numbness and very annoying (to most people it would be painful) tingling  up his arms to his shoulders.

Having his arm deadened from shoulder down for the surgeries scared him because it was like "having a dead arm" and took 24 hours for it to come back to life. On the first surgery he thought they'd destroyed a nerve or something because he couldn't feel his arm. Plus he had asked for no anesthesia because he wanted to watch the surgery. So they gave him 1/4 dose ("just to take the edge off") but he still fell immediately to sleep.

For the second surgery they gave him less and he was awake and able to ask questions but not see what was going on because the surgeon and attendants worked inside a tent. And the second time he knew his arm was only going to be dead for a day and he didn't panic. Plus he decided he didn't need that annoying wrap and took it off after a couple of days instead of the assigned week. (He lasted a few days longer on the first surgery before taking it off.) Johnny's wrists seem to have healed in spite of his impatience.

Besides carpal tunnel surgeries, we've had a witch invasion. It happens every year a bit before Halloween. Migrating witches crash all around the place. We did find one reason for a crash this year... check out her right hand. Don't text and fly!

Along with wayward witches, we are having the prettiest fall ever. The Big Leaf Maples are more colorful than I've ever seen them before. From what others say, the colors are more spectacular through the entire northwest than in the past. Maybe the witches are being dazzled by the colors and not watching where they're flying. Or maybe they're texting someone about how pretty the trees are...

When we moved to the west coast a zillion years ago, I missed the spectacular colors of the east coast... so I planted trees that turn red in the fall. Here is our arboretum this fall with the Amur Maples in their autumn finery.

And around the house, more reds of many shades...

But it's the native maples, usually a muddy yellow-brown this time of year, that are turning our hillside gold.

Next up: a colorful autumn birthday party plus cider making with Kevin, Jessica and Ian

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Science Works in Ashland

Ian has just sent me these photos he took with his phone while we were in Ashland. I did not haul my camera around (except on our hikes) so kept asking him to take photos.

Steve and family had arrived a couple days after we did. We met them Thursday morning at ScienceWorks Museum. What a great place.

Steve became mesmerized by this giant kaleidoscope type thingie. He said he could watch it all day.

But there was way too much to see there to spend much time at any one station. The bubble room was my favorite. Below Steve and Kestrel create bubble shapes at the bubble wall.

All three of them are inside a giant bubble of their own creation.

Below Cedrus creates a giant bubble.

There's an outside portion of the museum, too. but I have no idea where this tube was or if they were supposed to be walking on it. Munazza and I retreated to do Qi Gong after the noise and stimulation inside the museum and I did not notice this tube.

This climbing wall has geologic time on it. The sign encourages visitors to climb through time.

Kestrel and Cedrus did.

Steve and Ian also did and both managed to get clear on top of the wall which I don't think people are supposed to do.

That evening we watched the Green Show on the bricks at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. This night the Uganda Children's Choir performed high energy songs and dances.

Everywhere inside and outside festival buildings were these wonderful welcoming signs. I asked Ian to take a photo of one for me.

It was nice to spend a week in a place where everyone is truly welcomed and honored, as actors on stage and as audience members. Oregon Shakespeare Festival is dedicated to diversity in their company members. All the actors are superb, whether they are deaf or hearing, black or white or any other hue, male or female, disabled or able-bodied.

Ian and I are looking forward to next year!